The small helicopter flying on Mars hasn’t just been successful -- it’s been overachieving.
NASA’s 4-pound chopper Ingenuity completed its first successful flight on April 19 -- the first ever powered flight by an aircraft on another planet -- after landing on Mars with rover Perseverance earlier this year. Officials only expected to attempt maybe five or six flights with the chopper, but now the scientists are using Ingenuity for data.
The helicopter has now completed its ninth flight on the Red Planet, recently just flying over a dune field (pictured above). Mars rover Perseverance can’t travel over that dune field, so Ingenuity is helping to show the rover where it can safely go.
You can see tracks left by Perseverance on Mars in the video above.
Before the chopper was able to assist, officials had to use high-resolution satellite images to try and plan a safe route for the rover.
NASA successfully landed its Mars rover Perseverance on Feb. 18 this year near an ancient river delta in the Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life. Perseverance is now the ninth spacecraft to successfully land on Mars since the 1970s, and each of those spacecrafts have been from the U.S.
Over the next two years, the rover will collect rock samples containing possible signs of bygone microscopic life, which will eventually be retrieved by another rover and brought back to Earth by another rocket ship.